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Toronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario online

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the Tartar, was made a prisoner of himself by the men whom he
had in custody, and was adroitly rowed over by them to the United
States shore, where being landed he was swiftly locked up in jail,
and thence only delivered when peace was restored.

The next memorable object, also on the left, was Shephard's inn,
a noted resting-place for wayfarers and their animals, flanked on
the north by large driving sheds, on the south by stables and barns :



446 Toronto of Old. [§ 26.

over the porch, at an early period, was the effigy of a lion gardant,
attempted in wood on the premises. Constructiveness was one of
the predominant faculties in the first landlord of the Golden Lion.
He was noted also for skilful execution on several instruments of
music : on the bassoon for one. In the rear of the hotel, a little to
the south, on a fine eminence, he put up for himself after the lapse
of some years, a private residence, remarkable for the originality
of its design, the outline of its many projecting roofs presenting a
multitude of concave curves in the Chinese pagoda style.

In several buildings in this neighbourhood an effort was at one
time made, chiefly, we believe, through the influence of Mr. Shep-
hard, to reproduce what in the west of England are called cob-
walls ; but either from an error in compounding the material, or
from the peculiar character of the local climate, they proved unsa-
tisfactory. — The Sheppards, early proprietors of land a little farther
on, were a different family, and spelt their name differently. It was
some members of this family that were momentarily concerned in
the movement of 1837.

In Willowdale, a hamlet just beyond Shephard's, was the resi-
dence of Mr. David Gibson, destroyed in 1837 by the Government
forces. We observe in the Gazette of January 6th, 1826, the
announcement, " Government House, York, 29th' December, 1825.
His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor has been pleased to
appoint David Gibson, gentleman, to be a surveyor of land in the
Province." In the practice of the profession indicated he was
prosperous, and also as a practical farmer. He likewise repre-
sented North York in the Provincial Parliament. When the calm
came after the tumult of 1837, he was appointed one of the Super-
intendents of Colonization Roads. He died at Quebec in 1864.

A road turning off at right angles to the eastward out of Willow-
dale led to a celebrated camp-meeting ground, on the property of
Mr. Jacob Cummer, one of the early German settlers. It was in a
grand maple forest — a fine specimen of such trysting places. It
was here that we were for the first time present at one of the pecu-
liar assemblies referred to, which, over the whole of this northern
continent, in a primitive condition of society at its several points,
have fulfilled, and still fulfil, an important, and we doubt not,
beneficent function.

This, as we suppose, was the scene of the camp-meeting described
in Peter Jones' Autobiography. "About noon," he writes on



§ 26.] Yonge St., Hogg's Hollow to (Bond's Lake. 447

Tuesday, the 10th of June, 1828, "started for the camp ground.
When we arrived we found about three hundred Indians collected
from Lake Simcoe and Scugog Lake. Most of those from Lake
Simcoe have just come in from the back lakes to join with their
converted brethren in the service of the Almighty God. They
came in company with brother Law, and all seemed very glad to see
us, giving us a hearty shake of the hand. The camp ground enclosed
about two acres, which was surrounded with board tents, having
one large gate for teams to go in and out, and three smaller ones.

" The Indians occupied one large tent, which was 220 feet long
and 15 feet broad. It was covered overhead with boards, and the
sides were made tight with laths to make it secure from any en-
croachments. It had four doors fronting the camp ground. In this
long house the Indians arranged themselves in families, as is their
custom in their wigwams. Divine service commenced towards
evening. Elder Case first gave directions as to the order to be
observed on the camp ground during the meetings. Brother James
Richardson then preached from Acts ii. 21; after which I gave
the substance in Indian, when the brethren appeared much affected
and interested. Prayer-meeting in the evening. The watch kept
the place illuminated during the night." The meeting continued
for four days.

Where the dividing line occurs between York and Markham, at
the angle on the right was the first site of the sign of the Green Bush,
removed afterwards, as we have noted, to the immediate outskirts
of York ; and to the left, somewhere near by, was a sign that used
to interest from its peculiarity, the Durweston Gate : a small white
five-barred gate, hung by its topmost bar to a projection from a
lofty post, and having painted on its lower bars " Durweston Gate/'
and the landlord's name. It was probably a reproduction by a
Dorsetshire immigrant of a familiar object in his native village.

Not excluding from our notes, as will be observed, those places
where Shenstone sighed to think a man often " found the warmest
welcome/' we must not forget Finch's — a great hostelry on the
right, which we soon reached as we advanced northward, of high
repute about 1836, and subsequently among excursion parties from
town, and among the half-pay settlers of the Lake Simcoe region,
for the contents of its larder and the quality of its cooking. Another
place of similar renown was Crew's, six or eight miles further on.

When for long years, men, especially Englishmen, called by their



448 Toronto of Old. [§ 26.

■occasions away from their homes, had been almost everywhere
doomed to partake of fare too literally hard, and perilous to the
health, it is not to be wondered at, when, here and there, at last a
house for the accommodation of the public did spring up where,
with cleanly quarters, digestible viands were to be had, that its
fame should speedily spread ; for is it not Dr. Samuel Johnson
himself who has, perhaps rather sweepingly said, " there is nothing
which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness
is produced as by a good tavern or inn."

Where a long slope towards the north begins soon after Finch's
a village entitled Dundurn was once projected by Mr. Allan Mc-
Nab, afterwards the famous Sir Allan, acting, we believe at the
time as agent for Mr. H. J. Boulton ; but Dundurn never advanced
beyond incipience. The name was afterwards familiar as that of
.Sir Allan's chateau close by Hamilton.

A well-travelled road now soon turned off to the right leading to
•certain, almost historic mills in Markham, known as the German
Mills. In the Gazetteer of 1 799 these mills are referred to. " Mark-
ham township in the east riding of the County of York fronts
Yonge Street/' it is stated in that early work, " and lies to the
northward of York and Scarborough. Here" it then adds "are
good mills and a thriving settlement of Germans."

The German Mills are situated on Lot No. 4 in the third con-
cession, on a portion of the Rouge or Nen — a river which the same
Gazetteer informs its readers was " the back communication from
the German settlement in Markham to Lake Ontario. The expec-
tation in 1799 was, as the Gazetteer further shows, that this river,
and not either the Humber or the Don, would one day be connected
with the Holland river by a canal. It was not certainly known in
1794, where the river which passed the German Mills had its outlet.
In Iredell's plan of Markham of that date, the stream is marked
" Kitcheseepe or Great River," with a memorandum attached —
" waters supposed to empty into Lake Ontario to the eastward of
the Highlands of York." Information, doubtless, noted down, by
Iredell, from the lips of some stray native. Kitche-seepe, " Big
River" is of course simply a descriptive expression, taken as
in so many instances, by the early people, to be a proper name.
(It does not appear that among the aborigines there were any
proper local names, in our sense of the expression.)

The German Mills were founded by Mr. Berczy, either on his



§ 26.1 Yonge St., Hogg's Hollow to (Bond's Lake. 449

own account or acting as agent for an association at New York
for the promotion of German emigration to Canada. When, after
failing to induce the Government to reconsider its decision in
regard to the patents demanded by him for his settlers, that gentle-
man retired to Montreal, the German Mills with various parcels of
land were advertised for sale in the Gazette of April 27, 1805, in
the following strain : " Mills and land in Markham. To be sold
by the subscriber for payment of debts due to the creditors of
William Berczy^ Esq., the mills called the German Mills, being a
grist mill and a saw mill. The grist mill has a pair of French burs,
and complete machinery for making and bolting superfine flour.
These mills are situated on lot No. 4 in the third concession
of Markham j with them will be given in, lots No. 3 and 4 in the
third concession, at the option of the purchaser. Also, 300 acres
being the west half of lot No. 31, and the whole of lot 32 in the
second concession of Markham. Half the purchase money to be
paid in hand, and half in one year with legal interest. W. Allan.
N.B. — Francis Smith, who lives on lot No. 14 in the third conces-
sion, will show the premises. York, nth March, 1805."

It appears from the same Gazette that Mr. Berczy's vacant house
in York had been entered by burglars after his departure. A reward
of twenty dollars is offered for their discovery. " Whereas," the
advertisement runs, "the house of William Berczy, Esq., was
broken open sometime during the night of the 14th instant, and
the same ransacked from one end to the other j this is to give
notice that whoever shall lodge an information, so that the offen-
der or offenders may be brought to justice, shall upon conviction
thereof receive Twenty Dollars. W. Chewett. York 1 8th April,
1805."

We have before referred to Mr. Berczy's embarrassments, from
which he never became disentangled ; and to his death in New
York, in 18 13. His decease was thus noticed in a Boston paper,
quoted by Dr. Canniff, p. 364, " Died — In the early part of the
year 1813, William Berczy, Esq., aged 68 j a distinguished inhabi-
tant of Upper Canada, and highly respected for his literary acquire-
ments. In the decease of this gentleman society must sustain an
irreparable loss, and the republic of letters will have cause to
mourn the death of a man eminent for genius and talent." •

The German Mills were purchased and kept in operation by
Capt. Nolan, of the 70th Regiment, at the time on duty in Canada ;
cc



450 Toronto of Old. [§ 26.

but the speculation was not a success. We have heard it stated
that this Captain Nolan was the father of the officer of the same
name and rank who fell in the charge of the Light Brigade at the
very first outset, when, at Balaclava,

" Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred."

The Gazette of March 19, 1818, contains the following curt an-
nouncement : " Notice. The German Mills and Distillery are now
in operation. For the proprietors, Alexander Patterson, Clerk,
nth March, 1818." Ten years later they are offered for sale or
to lease in the U. C. Loyalist of* April 5, 1828. (It will be observed
that they once bore the designation of Nolanville.) " For sale or
to be leased," thus runs the advertisement, " all or any part of the
property known and described as Nolanville or German Mills, in
the third concession of the township of Markham, consisting of
four hundred acres of land, upwards of fifty under good fences and
improvements, with a good dwelling-house, barn, stable, saw-mill,
grist-mill, distillery, brew-house, malt-house, and several other out-
burldings. The above premises will be disposed of, either the
whole or in part, by application to the subscriber, William Allan,
York, January 26, 1828. The premises can be viewed at any time
by applying to Mr. John Duggan, residing there."

In the absence of striking architectural objects in the country at
the time, we remember, about the year 1828, thinking the extensive
cluster of buildings constituting the German Mills a rather impres-
sive sight, coming upon them suddenly, in the midst of the woods,
in a deserted condition, with all their windows boarded up.

One of our own associations with the German Mills is the me-
mory of Mr. Charles Stewart Murray, afterwards well-known in York
as connected with the Bank of Upper Canada. He had been
thrown out of employment by Capt. Nolan's relinquishment of the
mills. He was then patronized by Mr. Thorne of Thornhill.

In our boyish fancy, a romantic interest attached to Mr. Murray
from his being a personal friend of Sir Walter Scott's, and from his
being intimately associated with him in the excursion to the Ork-
neys, while the Pirate and the Lord of the Isles were simmering in
the Novelist's brain. " Not a bad Re-past," playfully said Sir
Walter after partaking one day of homely meat-pie at the little inn
of one Rae. Lo ! from Mr. Murray's talk, a minute grain to be



§ 26.] Yonge St., Hogg's Hollow to (Bond's Lake. 45 1

added to Sir Walter's already huge cairn of ana. Mr. M., too, was
imagined by us, quite absurdly doubtless, to be an hereditary
■devotee of the Pretender, if not closely allied to him by blood.
{His grandfather, or other near relative, had, we believe, really been
for a time secretary to Prince Charles Edward Stuart)

A mile or two beyond where the track to the German Mills turned
off, Yonge Street once more encountered a branch of the Don,
flowing, as usual, through a wide and difficult ravine. At the point
where the stream was crossed, mills and manufactories made their
appearance at an early date. The ascent of the bank towards the
north was accomplished, in this instance, in no round-about way.
The road went straight up. Horse-power and the strength of
leather were here often severely tested.

On the rise above, began the village of Thornhill, an attractive
and noticeable place from the first moment of its existence. Here-
about several English families had settled, giving a special tone
to the neighbourhood. In the very heart of the village was the
home, unfailingly genial and hospitable, of Mr. Parsons, one of the
chief founders of the settlement j emigrating hither from Sherborne
in Dorsetshire in 1820. Nearer the brow of the hill overlooking
the Don, was the house of Mr. Thorne, from whom the place took
its name : an English gentleman also from Dorsetshire, and asso-
ciated with Mr. Parsons in the numerous business enterprises which
made Thornhill for a long period a centre of great activity and
prosperity. Beyond, a little further northward, lived the Gappers,
another family initiating here the amenities and ways of good old
west-of-England households. Dr. Paget was likewise an element
of happy influence in the little world of this region, a man of high
culture \ formerly a medical practitioner of great repute in Tor-
quay.

Another character of mark associated with Thornhill in its palmy
days was the Rev. George Mortimer, for a series of years the pastor
of the English congregation there. Had his lot been cast in the
scenes of an Oberlin's labours or a Lavater's, or a Felix NefFs, his
name would probably have been conspicuously classed with theirs
in religious annals. He was eminently of their type. Constitu-
tionally of a spiritual temperament, he still did not take theology
to be a bar to a scientific and accurate examination of things visi-
ble. He deemed it " sad, if not actually censurable, to pass blind-
folded through the works of God, to live in a world of flowers, and



452 Toronto of Old. [§ 26.

stars, and sunsets, and a thousand glorious objects of Nature, and
never to have a passing interest awakened by any one of them."'
Before his emigration to Canada he had been curate of Madeley in
Shropshire, the parish of the celebrated Fletcher of Madeley, whose
singularly beautiful character that of Mr. Mortimer resembled.
Though of feeble frame his ministerial labours were without inter-
mission ; and his lot, as Fletcher's also, was to die almost in the
act of officiating in his profession.

An earlier incumbent of the English Church at Thornhill was the
Rev. Isaac Fidler. This gentleman rendered famous the scene of
his Canadian ministry, as well as his experiences in the United
States, by a book which in its day was a good deal read. It was
entitled " Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and
Emigration in the United States and Canada." Although he
indulged in some sharp strictures on the citizens of the United
States, in relation to the matters indicated, and followed speedily
after by the never-to-be-forgotten Mrs. Trollope, his work was.
reprinted by the Harpers. Mr. Fidler was a remarkable person, —
of a tall Westmoreland mould, resembling the common pictures of
Wordsworth. He was somewhat peculiar in his dress, wearing
always an extremely high shirt-collar, very conspicuous round the
whole of his neck, forming a kind of spreading white socket in
. which rested and revolved a head, bald, egg-shaped and spectacled.
Besides being scholarly in the modern sense, Mr. Fidler possessed'
the more uncommon accomplishment of a familiarity with the
oriental languages.

The notices in his book, of early colonial life have now to us an
archaic sound. We give his narrative of the overturn of a family
party on their way home from church. " The difficulty of descend-
ing a steep hill in wet weather may be imagined," he says, " The
heavy rains had made it (the descent south of Thornhill) a com-
plete puddle which afforded no sure footing to man or beast. In
returning from church, the ladies and gentlemen I speak of," he
continues, " had this steep hill to descend. The jaunting car
being filled with people was too heavy to be kept back, and pressed
heavy upon the horses. The intended youthful bridegroom (of one
of the ladies) was, I was told, the charioteer. His utmost skill
was ineffectually tried to prevent a general overturn. The horses
became less manageable every moment. But yet the ladies and
gentlemen in the vehicle were inapprehensive of danger, and their



§ 26.] Yonge St., Hogg's Hollow to (Bond's Lake. 453

mirth and jocularity betrayed the inward pleasure they derived from
his increasing struggles. At last the horses, impatient of control,
and finding themselves their own masters, jerked the carriage
against the parapet of the road and disengaged themselves from it.
The carriage instantly turned over on its side ; and as instantly all
the ladies and gentlemen trundled out of it like rolling pins. No-
body was hurt in the least, for the mire was so deep that they fell
very soft and were quite imbedded in it. What apologies the gen-
tleman made I am unable to tell, but the mirth was perfectly sus-
pended. I overtook the party at the bottom of the hill, the ladies
walking homewards from the church and making no very elegant
appearance."

As an example of the previously undreamt of incidents that may
happen to a missionary in a backwoods settlement, we mention
what occurred to ourselves when taking the duty one fine bright
summer morn, many years ago, in the Thornhill Church, yet in its
primitive unenlarged state. A farmer's horse that had been moon-
ing leisurely about an adjoining field, suddenly took a fancy to the
shady interior disclosed by the wide-open doors of the sacred
building. Before the churchwardens or any one else could make
out what the clatter meant, the creature was well up the central
passage of the nave. There becoming affrighted, its ejection was
an awkward affair, calling for tact and manoeuvring.

The English Church at Thornhill has had another incumbent
not undistinguished in literature, the Rev. E. H. Dewar, author of
a work published at Oxford in 1844, on the Theology of Modern
Germany. It is in the form of letters to a friend, written from the
standpoint of the Jeremy Taylor school. It is entitled " German
Protestantism and the Right of Private Judgment in the Interpreta-
tion of Holy Scripture." The author's former position as chaplain
to the British residents at Hamburg gave him facilities for becom-
ing acquainted with the state of German theology. Mr. Dewar, to
superior natural talents, added a refined scholarship and a wide
range of accurate knowledge. He died at Thornhill in 1862.

The incumbent who preceded Mr. Dewar was the Rev. Dominic
E. Blake, brother of Mr. Chancellor Blake ; a clergyman also of
superior talents. Previous to his emigration to Canada in 1832,
he had been a curate in the county of Mayo. He died suddenly
in 1859. It is remarked of him in a contemporary obituary that
•" his productions indicated that while intellect was in exercise his



454 Toronto of Old. [§ 26.

heart felt the importance of the subjects before him/' These pro-
ductions were numerous, in the form of valuable papers and reports,
read or presented to the local Diocesan Society.

It is curious to observe that in 1798, salmon ascended the waters
of the Don to this point on Yonge Street. Among the recom-
mendations of a farm about to be offered for sale, the existence
thereon of " an excellent salmon fishery" is named. Thus runs the
advertisement (Qazette, May 16, 1798): " To be sold by public
auction, on Monday, the 2nd of July next, at John McDougalPs
hotel, in the town of York, a valuable Farm, situated on Yonge
Street, about twelve miles from York, on which are a good log-
house, and seven or eight acres well improved. The advantages
of the above farm, from the richness of its soil and its being well
watered, are not equalled by many farms in the Province j and
above all, it affords an excellent salmon fishery, large enough to
support a number of families, which must be conceived a great
advantage in this infant country. The terms will be made known
on the day of sale."

As we move on from Thornhill with Vaughan on the left and
Markham on the right, the name of another rather memorable early-
missionary recurs, whose memory is associated with both these
townships — Vincent Philip Mayerhoffer.

Notwithstanding its drawbacks, early Canadian life, like early
American life generally, became, in a little while, invested with a
curious interest and charm j by means, for one thing, of the variety
of character encountered. A man might vegetate long in an ob-
scure village or country town of the old mother country before he
rubbed against a person of V. P. Mayerhoffer's singular experience,
and having his wits set in motion by a sympathetic realization of
such a career as his.

He was a Hungarian ; born at Raab in 1784 ; and had been
ordained a presbyter in the National Church of Austria. On emi-
grating to the United States, he, being himself a Franciscan, fell
into some disputes with the Jesuits at Philadelphia, and withdrew
from the Latin communion and attached himself, in company with
a fellow presbyter named Huber, to the Lutheran Reformed. As
a recognized minister of that body he came on to Buffalo, where
he officiated for four years to three congregations, visiting at the
same time, occasionally, a congregation on the Canada side of the
river, at Limeridge. He here, for the first time, began the study



§ 26.] Yonge St., Hogg's Hollow to (Bond's Lake. 455

of the English language. Coming now into contact with the clergy
of the Anglican communion, he finally resolved to conform to the
Anglican Church, and was sent by Bishop Stewart, of Quebec, to
the German settlement in Markham and Vaughan. Here he offi-
ciated for twenty years, building in that interval St. Stephen's Church
in Vaughan, St. Philip's in the 3rd concession of Markham, and the
Church in Markham village, and establishing a permanent congre-
gation at each.

He was a vigorous, stirring preacher in his acquired English
tongue, as well as in his vernacular German. He possessed also
a colloquial knowledge of Latin, which is still a spoken language
in part of Hungary. He was a man of energy to the last : ever
cheerful in spirit, and abounding in anecdotes, personal or other-
wise. It was from him, as we remember, we first heard the after-
wards more familiarized names of Magyar and Sclave.

His brother clergy of the region where his duty lay were indebted
to him for many curious glimpses at men and things in the great
outer world of the continent of Europe. During the Napoleonic
wars he was " Field Chaplain of the Imperial Infantry Regiment,
No. 60 of the Line," and accompanied the Austrian contingent of



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